Strong Women Will Continue to Lead the Charge in ‘The Walking Dead’ Season 9

Strong women in conflict will drive the remainder of The Walking Dead Season Nine, says former Abraham Ford star Michael Cudlitz, who returns to the series next Sunday with directorial debut “Stradivarius.”

“Angela Kang came in as a showrunner, and she’s done a bunch of wonderful changes,” Cudlitz told ET of Kang, a writer-producer veteran on the series since Season Two, who in Season Nine was elevated to the position previously held by executive producer Scott Gimple.

“We always had strong women on this show. Now we have strong women who are in conflict with each other on the show, coming up, and I think the audience is going to really, really respond to that.”

Following the “death” of Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) in 905, Michonne (Danai Gurira) has stepped up as de facto leader of Alexandria, while Carol (Melissa McBride) continues to oversee the Kingdom with husband Ezekiel (Khary Payton).

Season Nine previously saw a bumped up role for Hilltop leader Maggie (Lauren Cohan), who has since exited the series — at least temporarily — following her clash with Rick and Michonne over the punishment of Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the ensuing confrontation with her husband’s murderer.

Series vets Rosita (Christian Serratos) and Tara (Alanna Masterson) will see bumps in their involvement now that major players like Rick and Maggie have made their exits, and another major female character is on the way in the form of Whisperer leader Alpha (Samantha Morton), who producer-director Greg Nicotero describes as “chilling” and “terrifying.”

Also introduced to the series this season is the tight-knit pack of newcomers led by Magna (Nadia Hilkes): sisters Connie (Lauren Ridloff) and Kelly (Angel Theory), Luke (Dan Fogler), and Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura).

Another driving force will be nine-year-old Judith Grimes (Cailey Fleming), who will inherit some of the comic book stories and legacy left behind by late half-brother Carl (Chandler Riggs).

“I’m proud to be a part of a show that, even the comics that the show is based on, had the story values to put forth incredibly strong, powerful female characters. Michonne is from the comic book, and it can’t get stronger than her,” chief content officer Gimple told Us.

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“You’re going to see some new characters this season from the comic book, incredibly strong female characters. And to have anything short of that is just to tell a frickin’ lame story, and that’s been true long before this political moment. When you don’t have strong female characters in your stories, you are telling stupid stories.”

The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.